Computer Model Allows for Better Computer Communication For Industry

June 02, 1997

ATHENS, Ohio -- A new computer model designed by engineers at Ohio University could improve communication among computer software systems used in the manufacturing industry, cutting production time and costs for many companies.

The Unified Data Meta Model (UDMM) is a computer data model based on common relational data modeling methods and is designed to support three types of computer systems widely used in the manufacturing industry -- CAD, CAPP and MRP. By integrating these systems, industrial engineers can work more efficiently throughout the manufacturing process, something current computer software doesn't allow, said David Koonce, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems at Ohio University and one of the researchers on the project.

Koonce presented the research at the Sixth Annual Industrial Engineering Research Conference in Miami May 17-18.

CAD, CAPP and MRP systems are used for part design, process planning and the manufacturing resource planning needed to complete the production manufacturing process. A method that allows the three systems to transfer data between each other would decrease the amount of time it takes to design and manufacture machined parts, and allow a company to get their item into the marketplace faster, Koonce said.

Manufacturers rely on many different computer programs to design and produce machined parts. To work together, the systems need to communicate with each other, transferring digital data among several software applications, Koonce said. Currently, no technology exists that allows this communication between systems, which has been one of the biggest problems facing the manufacturing industry, according to the researchers on the project.

"Although many stages in a manufacturing system have been computerized, they often remain as islands of automation and data must be transferred manually from one system to another," Koonce said. The researchers' model is the first step toward automating the entire process.

"With automation, you are able to get the job done more quickly and with fewer errors," said Robert Judd, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Ohio University and another researcher involved with the project.

Other attempts to integrate manufacturing systems have focused on creating one database to house data from each of the different systems. This approach is problematic, Koonce and Judd said, because each system must be programmed to communicate with the database, a timely and difficult process. Another problem could arise if the central database was damaged or offline, which would shut down the entire design and planning process.

The model developed by researchers at Ohio University takes a different approach. With this system, each manufacturing software system -- CAD, CAPP or MRP -- keeps its own unique database. The computer model acts as a translator between the systems, allowing them to exchange data easily.

"We wanted to create a program that would allow the transfer of data between the various software tools at each stage of product development," Judd said. This gives engineers more time to make necessary corrections in product design early in the process.

Dinesh Dhamija, assistant professor of industrial technology, was also involved with the project. The research is part of the National Science Foundation Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) program, and is sponsored by the Center for Advanced Software Systems Integration in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University.

GOALI pairs academic centers with industry in an effort to increase application of NSF-funded research. Each grant includes funding for research based in a university research lab and on-site research at a partnering company. Ohio University is working with Elano, a division of General Electric that produces tubing for jet engines. The division is based in Dayton, Ohio.
Contact: David Koonce, 614-593-1544;
Written by Kelli Whitlock, 614-593-0383;

Ohio University

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